Thursday, November 14, 2019

Green: McEwen and a supporting cast provided Howard much-needed help in an 18-point comeback

Photo Credit: Dylan Buell- Getty Images

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

Exact chemistry on a year-in, year-out basis can be a difficult thing to replicate in college athletics.

The Marquette Golden Eagles looked to be well on their way to being a top-25 ranked team in the preseason until the departure of Sam (Virginia) and Joey Hauser (Michigan State) in the off-season.

The loss of Hauser brothers meant the end of the Marquette hype train for the time being and more of a focus on who would complement of the sharp-shooting of Markus Howard when adversity would inevitably hit.

Wednesday’s night 65-55 win over Purdue in the Gavitt Tipoff Games provided a glimpse to the go-to role players and a potential equal to Howard as Marquette’s Koby McEwen caught fire in the second half scoring 18 of a game-high 23. McEwen is used to the big stage, but in a mid-major setting in the Mountain West as he produced 18 20-point games in two previous seasons at Utah State.

Down 38-22 with 30 seconds left in the first half, McEwen drained a three-pointer to give Marquette a much-needed boost going into halftime. McEwen managed to carry the momentum with a layup to start the Golden Eagles’ scoring in the second half, which started the beginning of the grind back to the top where Howard would contribute, but not in the usual workload.

Instead of being pass-first, McEwen’s mindset became more of a mamba-like mentality as he began to seize confidence with every basket made with Marquette’s deficit chipping away in the process and Purdue’s paint presence fading to black.

McEwen’s scoring outburst in the early stages of the second half helped pave the way for Sacar Anim’s return after leaving the game in the latter stages of the first half with an undisclosed injury. Anim provided support and another vital piece to Marquette’s comeback with five straight points capped off by the go-ahead layup to go up 54-52 with 4:43 left in regulation.

The Golden Eagles led for the remainder of the game and while Howard finished with 18 points, on 6-of-12 from the field in 32 minutes, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter gave credit to McEwen’s ability to change gears on the fly.

“Everything gets pushed towards Markus [Howard] and rightfully so, but had to explain to our guys how good [Koby] is and how we had to get him under control,” Painter said. “[Koby] made a big three towards the end of the first half when Marquette was reeling and making his free throws when it mattered, you have to give him credit.”

Wojciechowski also gave credit to McEwen for being adapt and attack with ease in the second half.

“Koby has the mindset of being a distributor and while that is a good quality to have to set other people up, you can’t forget your strengths,” Wojciechowski said. “One of the things we asked him to do after the first half was to be more aggressive because he can score and would help open things up.”

McEwen was very humble and modest about the outcome and deferred the effort to trying make his teammates better on the court.

“I was trying to set the tone for my team. I am considered one of the leaders of the team and it was my job to try and get the guys going,” McEwen said. [Markus] was in a little bit of foul trouble and coach wanted to me to be a little more aggressive to get into the paint to suck the defense in.”

Jamal Cain’s six-point, seven-rebound effort did not go unnoticed as the junior provided a couple of quality plays to aid in Marquette’s 18-point comeback, which is the largest in the Steve Wojciechowski era.

 “I thought Jamal [Cain] off the bench gave us a huge spark as he made a lot of energy plays and 50/50 balls and was proud of the effort put in,” Wojciechowski said.

The energy levels of McEwen, Anim and Cain will be needed and then some as they face in-state rivals, the Wisconsin Badgers at the Kohl Center in a Sunday matinee normally reserved for the Wisconsinites’ weekly Green Bay Packers helping.